One of the longest-running fundraising traditions in the area happens Sunday at the Sid Williams Theatre, with the 39th edition of the CVCDA Telethon.
But what exactly is the CVCDA?
The Comox Valley Child Development Association is an “all-in-one” centre for all things related to childhood development.
From the Infant Development Program and The Autism Program, to occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech-language pathology, to pre-natal support, and even support for grandmothers involved in childcare, the CVCDA really does “have it all”, in regards to the development of children. And best of all, the costs are covered.
“There is no cost for the services here, it is all funded by the provincial government,” said CVCDA executive director Joanne Schroeder. “There can be additional costs, for equipment, or respite services…but there are always options and we always work so that costs are not a barrier.”
A relationship between a family and the CVCDA starts with Kim Griffiths, the association’s family resource consultant – generally the first contact a parent has with the CVCDA.
“Once a family gets referred here, I go out and meet with them, and determine whether there’s a service that is appropriate for them – if there is some type of program we offer that is beneficial to the family,” said Griffiths.
Chances are, the CVCDA has the tools – and people – to help.
“We have a unique range of services, with very unique service providers as well. We have a staff that are very enthused about what they do,” said Griffiths.
The Autism Program is second-to-none, with one-on-one or group sessions for the clients, and a clinic with everything from crayons to a swing; yes, there’s an indoor swing.
April Statz is the manager of TAP and is constantly monitoring and addressing the community needs regarding the condition.
“This is my third year in this position; I have doubled my staff, doubled the clientele, and I have an extra program that I have (brought in),” she said.
TAP offers support from original diagnosis right through the teenage years.
Statz advises that the earlier a child is diagnosed to be in the Autism Spectrum, the better, inasmuch as funding is concerned.
“If the child is under six in B.C., they get $22,000 a year, for intervention. Over six, they get $6,000.”
One of the most well received activities in TAP is the summer day camp; Camp Oasis.
“We run it the last two weeks in July,” said Statz. “Do all kinds of fun activities throughout the community, every day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the final day we have a barbecue where we invite the parents.
“It’s really nice to see the kids going out and just having fun and what’s interesting is hearing the kids talk to each other as peers.”
Senses come alive
Then there’s the newest addition: the sensory room.
Opened in June, the sensory room is an area with the sole purpose of stimulating the senses.
The sensory room was designed by technicians specializing in Snoezelen therapy – a client-directed therapy in a multi-sensory environment.
“Snoezelen therapy was originally developed in working with cognitive-delayed adults,” explained Lindsay Mallette, a CVCDA therapy assistant. “Using a tent, with fans and ribbons blowing on it, things that smelled good, things that felt good, things that looked different, kind of awoke their senses and found that in doing so that these (adults) became more engaged, and it had a calming effect.”
The room at the CVCDA is, indeed, a sensory stimulator. A floor to ceiling bubble pole (remember lava lamps?) sits at one end. Fibre optics rope, vertical and horizontal massage pads, bubble mirrors that distort the reflection – sensory stimulation abounds.
“Visually, there is a lot there,” said Mallette. “We also have a lot of things that vibrate, for the tactile (aspect) – the fibre optics strings work both for the visual and the tactile. They can hold the strings and run their hands through them because there is no electricity running through them.”
The audio system is synchronized with the bubble lamps and the fibre optics, so that the sound and the lighting match.
There are soft-pad cushions that make different sounds when stepped on, and a vibrating ladybug.
“We are hoping to add something for the sense of smell to the room,” said Mallette. “There are tons of different products available; we are just not there yet. There are so many things to consider when approaching the sense of smell. How quickly does the scent dissipate? How strong can it be, and still not bother the next person in the room? There are so many logistics to consider.”
For the clients, the sensory room is a bit of an escape from the usual routine at a centre such as the CVCDA.
“Rather than having goal-oriented therapy, the sensory room is more for child-like exploration of things that are not in their normal everyday life,” said Mallette. “It’s different than other areas (at the CVCDA) because there is no pressure to perform; you just come here and you explore with the child.
“That’s a hard thing for a lot of adults to understand – therapy without goals, what good is that going to do?
“But this can help bring them out of their shells, there can be an increase in vocalization, a decrease in anxiety.
“And it’s not for one specific type of child. Any kind of emotional delay, cognitive delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder – it’s pretty widespread in who it helps.”
And while the CVCDA is geared toward children, Snoezelen therapy has proven effective for adults with brain injuries and even dementia patients.
The CVCDA assists more than 800 children and their families each year via a wide array of programming.
Schroeder says the most important thing is to realize that there is help available when it comes to child development.
“If as a parent, you feel that something isn’t right with your child, you should talk about it,” she said. “You should talk to your doctor, or you should call us up and say ‘these are the kinds of things that I am concerned about.’ It’s never too early, and it’s always a good thing if someone says to you ‘hey you know what, that’s nothing to worry about.’ But if there is something there, know that we are here to help.”